Capitol Hill Anthrax Matches Army's Stocks
5 Labs Can Trace Spores to Ft. Detrick
by Rick Weiss and Susan Schmidt Genetic fingerprinting studies indicate that the anthrax spores mailed to Capitol Hill are identical to stocks of the deadly bacteria maintained by the U.S. Army since 1980, according to scientists familiar with the most recent tests.
Although many laboratories possess the Ames strain of anthrax involved in this fall's bioterrorist attacks, only five laboratories so far have been found to have spores with perfect
genetic matches to those in the Senate letters, the scientists said. And all those labs can trace back their samples to a single U.S. military source: the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, Md.
"That means the original source [of the terrorist material] had to have been USAMRIID," said one of the scientists.
I have a bit of inside knowledge about the case because I worked at Northern Arizona University at the time. NAU is the base for the lab of Dr. Paul Keim, who's one of the worlds top anthrax researchers. Because I was one of many who had access to that lab, I was interviewed by the FBI as part of the investigation. The interview was somewhat surreal, with the FBI repeatedly asking about "middle eastern males" who might have gained access to the lab (which by the way didn't have anywhere near the quantities used in the attack). I was asked multiple times if I'd seen any suspicious activity by "middle eastern males", and it really bothered me that the FBI had ruled out any American suspects.
The genetic fingerprinting finding was made by a research team led by geneticist Paul Keim at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, which has been comparing the Ames strain bacteria found in the Senate letters to other Ames strain samples retrieved from nature and from various university and government laboratories.
It seems the most logical suspect had to have inside access to Fort Detrick, and more specifically to the bioweapons lab. In short, it was an inside job. I'm not saying a government sanctioned hit, but whoever mailed the letters to two top democratic senators worked for the facility.
added: Blogger is giving me a headache on changing font sizes.